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Rianne van Lieburg

  • Research Expertise:Why is it so hard to get rid of your foreign accent and do you still mix up “buur” and “boer” in Dutch? How do you finally master those irregular grammar rules and know that “la seule femme” and “la femme seule” do not mean the same in French? How is your native language reflected in your second language and vice versa? These are some of the questions I aim to answer in my research into multilingualism. All languages are composed of building blocks such as sounds and words, which we use to build sentences. These building blocks as well as information on how to combine those are stored in our brain. When we talk or listen, our brain is searching for the corresponding sounds and words and combines them to form sentences. This process usually runs smoothly in our native language, but when we learn a second language, we often struggle with the new sounds and grammar. I investigate how we store and process a second language in our brain. In my research, I use language experiments. I invite participants to perform an easy task, such as reading words or describing pictures. Meanwhile, I measure reaction times, eye movements or brain activity to learn about second language processing. What knowledge to the participants store about their (second) language) and how do they use this knowledge during language processing? During my PhD project, I investigated how people learn sentence structures in their second language, such as the passive structure “The balloon is released by the child”. For instance, I tested whether the way you learn new sentence structures is influenced by the presence of similar structures in your native language. I discovered that bilingual students who were raised with both Dutch and Arabic or Berber tend to just say “The balloon is released” (and leave out “by the child”), as this is also more common in Arabic and Berber. Even if bilinguals use the language flawlessly, we can still recognize traces of one language in the other language! In my current post-doc project, I investigate how language learners store the sounds of the new language in their brain, especially if those sounds do not occur in their native language or are used differently. For example, I investigate why speakers of Dutch have so much trouble producing the th-sound in English. Do they lack the right knowledge on how the sound is supposed to be, or are they hindered in using their knowledge during language production? By means of a range of experiments I try to gain more insight into language processing in multilinguals.
  • Keywords:PSYCHOLINGUISTICS, SECOND LANGUAGE, Language and literature (incl. information, documentation, library and archive sciences)
  • Disciplines:Psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics
  • Research techniques:I use psycholinguistic methods and techniques to measure language production or language comprehension.
  • Users of research expertise:My research expertise may be interesting to anyone interested in second language acquisition, including second language learners or professionals working in second language education.